Angel Olsen’s performance at Observatory North Park was dominated by songs from her cinematic new album, All Mirrors.
Singer-songwriter Angel Olsen started her music career as a collaborator, but then branched off into solo work that culminated into five full-length albums. Known for her dramatic, expansive vocals, Olsen’s music typically has been shuffled into the indie-rock category among music critics.
Her fifth record, All Mirrors, is a departure from that to a theatrical journey exploring dark themes with lush synths and an orchestra. “In every way — from the making of it, to the words, to how I feel moving forward — this record is about owning up to your darkest side,” Olsen had said about the record.
With a set dominated by songs off All Mirrors, Olsen and co. played up the dramatic essence of the new record. Thematic entry music played as Olsen’s six-piece band walked onstage, followed by the singer-songwriter dressed in an all-black, sparkling dress with shoulder pads. As they played, a backdrop of a dramatic staircase from what looked like a Victorian-era mansion added to the gothic mood. The visuals suited powerful songs like “Lark” and synth-driven title track, “All Mirrors.”
Contrasting sharply with the band’s stoic stage presence were embarrassing proclamations from the audience. “Guitar time!” some dude yelled when Olsen picked up her guitar. Another yelled “Welcome to San Diego!” Then there were multiple declarations of love and song requests.
In her gentle Southern drawl, Olsen often had a clever response: “What are you going to do if I don’t play that song? Fight me? Wrestle me?”
Although Olsen’s band was on-point, her vocals gorgeous, and the lighting and set well thought-out, sometimes All Mirrors’ songs required an extra patient listener. While Olsen’s past albums like My Woman and Burn Your Fire For No Witness have accessible, catchy melodic moments, All Mirrors is slower and more complicated.
Fortunately for fans of Olsen’s older songs, the band played tracks like “Sweet Dreams” off of Phases and the fan-favorite “Shut Up Kiss Me” from My Woman. Interestingly, the backdrop of the gothic staircase was obscured during performances of non-All Mirrors songs.
Olsen played “True Blue” during the encore — her collaboration with Mark Ronson from his album Late Night Feelings. The nearly six-minute song ended with a long, melancholy jam, leaving the audience to go into the night with their feelings.